Celestivl: Tentimestwo (Self Released)
Celestivl detail their inspirations as being 20th-century Classical art, Theatre, Pop Music, The Learned style (nope, me neither) and Disney. That’s quite an array, not all of which I’m sure entirely complement each other. As far as the latter influence is concerned, one hopes that Tentimestwo brings to life the inspiration, magic, and emotionalism of the original Dumbo, rather the cynicism and laziness of the remake (Upon writing, I’ve just returned from the cinema, and don’t need another disappointment). Joking aside, this debut actually handles the task of bringing together pop hooks with sweeping orchestrals, maturely and dramatically. Beginning on the brooding scrape at strings, and subtle cymbal tapping, Melisandre makes its main trick one of suspense. Every new layer of harmony or theatrical composition washes over the listener delicately and gracefully, proving enticing as it swells towards an epic blast-beat crescendo. Shattered Pictures arrests with deliberately downbeat verses, before a gentle wave of strings grows louder and louder, leading us towards the epic chorus.
While these songs do follow a pop layout, lending to their infectious quality, look beneath the surface and you begin to notice the almost choir inspired ideas on which these songs are created. Spires and Blasphemous do not so much as follow a generic development, as they do cascade and grow, with a remarkable amount of beauty. The guitars, rhythm section, strings, and horns powerfully complement one another, not once acting in an obscuring or self-indulgent manner. Senetta Ram’s vocals are a multi-bladed sword, proving ferocious, with the opulence of opera and the softness of traditional pop. Looking at these elements as one, we are left with an album which takes the remarkable, epic and catchy sensibilities of Symphonic Metal and combines them into a project which is very much its own experience.
Not too far detached from its contemporaries, I would say that Tentimestwo is a piece you will particularly enjoy if you find pleasure in the epic yet also accessible side of symphonic music. Think, Dark Passion Play, The Unforgiving, The Holographic Principle – the style which combines the aspiration to be larger-than-life, with the desire to make crowds dance and sing! For all its worth, I think Celestivl have more tricks up their sleeve, yet this work bears all the defining characteristics of an excellent debut 8/10
Joanovarc: Joanovarc (Self Released)
Joanovarc are an act who belong firmly in that elusive genre of hard rock. A genre I now have mixed feelings about. Strange, considering the catchiness and bite opened gateways for me to a world of heavy music. Still, it seems for every act bearing the label, who brings that AC/DC, Motörhead, Girlschool brand of ferociousness stomping down upon you with force, there seems to be another willing to offer up a combination of generic riffs, edgy lyrics, and uninspired guitar solos. Acts who cruise on auto-pilot and bring nothing new to the table irritate me, in that they give me nothing of interest to say. How can I analyze Joanovarc's second album without churning out the same old spiel?
Well, I could take the recommendation approach: Do you like straightforward, guitar-based music that will stick in your head, and vaguely remind of Classic acts? well, maybe you should give this a try! Everyone else, give it a miss. However, that doesn't really let on my true feelings about the album. Alternatively, I could try and give the quartet some leeway by pointing out how moments like Waiting For, When We Were Young and Jane are pleasant slices of rock n’ roll, well performed and easy to digest. Still, that doesn't truly express my feelings of dissatisfaction towards the album. Considering I was taking the harsh approach, I would obsess over the utter lack of variety and range across the entire record. Yet isn’t that the very problem? Works like this do just enough not to get a bad score and not nearly enough to justify a good one. Hey, what do ya’ know? We got a review out of this one after all 4/10
La Dispute: Panorama (Epitaph Records)
When confronting music centered on tragedy, I become cautious. La Dispute is an act renowned for their depressive side, and I always trusted that they understood the weight of their lyricism. Crucially, there is a way of addressing difficult subjects, and the cold truth is that the examples which tend to be most poignant are the ones detailing a lived experience, unflinching and uncompromising in their honesty. Taking an outside looking in approach can be executed well, but has the potential to rob all agency from people who are suffering, when performed badly. Panorama does take that distant approach, as if observing disaster from a car window, journeying down a highway, unable to cease its tiresome passage. Crucially, however, rather than pretending to understand exactly how it feels to grieve, our narrator admits his own obliviousness. In spite of his countless efforts to show sympathy, he cannot truly empathize, as friends, loved ones and acquaintances are made to falter under the strain of their anxieties.
Panorama isn’t an album about understanding, it’s one about detachment, and all the guilt that alienation can lead to. Sombrely contemplating a shrine, asking what heartbreaking incident must have occurred, we begin on a two-part suite simply titled Fulton Street. ‘’Never needed to live and suffer through the pain, all the tyrannies of grief, if I ever do, will I even have the strength to do anything, could I lay flowers by the street’’ our narrator muses, wondering if he’d even have the bravery to pay his respects, when confronted with loss. Part II strongly suggests that Dreyer’s friend or partner is being made to grieve and that failure to relate causes a strain on their relationship: ‘’I was waiting for the anger to change and the roof beams to bend and the whole thing to break’’.
Rhodonite and Grief is imbued with discordant flutes and strings, their changeable nature lending a disquieting feel to the track. Rhodonite for stress, promethazine for sleep, A rabbit toy for kids, my deep condolences’’ our frontman sings here, acknowledging that all he can possibly do is his send his comfort to a person who, by implication, appears to be suffering through a debilitating condition or enduring suicidal thoughts. Anxiety Panorama ruminates on this theme further, specifically addressing the consuming challenge of writing about another's an emotional state, the repeated motif ‘’my panic grips, your own pain spills like poison in you’’ bearing tons of weight, as the cracked, frustrated delivery drills its way deep into my skull. As far as compositions are concerned, they don’t so much follow a set rhythm as they do flow and undulate, as if reflecting a stream of consciousness.
The one song with a set riff, Footsteps At The Pond, grows more and more fraught and distorted as it goes on, excellently reflecting the painful tone which the entire album carries, with so much hurt yet so much beauty. We close on Your Ascendant, which can be interpreted in a multitude of ways, either through the death of the individual in question, or finding comfort in suffering. Its lyrical themes and melodic motifs reprise a number of moments from throughout the album, and its vague references to traveling and leaving pain behind, leave the message very much to the listeners’ imagination.
Severely direct and relatable, Panorama is not an easy record to listen to, purely for the reason that we have all been in a situation where we have felt alienated from another’s anguish. If you love someone and they hurt themselves, or you care for someone and they hurt you, that emotional weight can be paralyzing, even if it appears pale in comparison with the actual pain of your loved one. To hear that feeling captured so precisely, in musical form, serves as a deeply emotional yet tumultuous experience. 8/10
Nine Shrines: Retribution Therapy (Mascot Records)
Nine Shrines are far from the most generic act in alternative metal. They actually have a great comprehension of melodic phrasing and tension, giving their anthems a bold and menacing charisma. Choruses on moments like Nimrod, Ringworm and Pretty Little Psycho are huge and imposing, and Retribution Therapy is a very passionately performed album, from start to finish. So what is it that’s not moving me to jump out of my seat and punch the air with excitement in this case? I think the answer to that lies in the production and compositional choices. Everything just stinks of overpolish, so that no matter how hard the volume of the riffs or rhythms hit, they have personality and grit sucked out of them by an overly sterilised and clean mix.
Compositionally, while I have already stated that I like some of the ideas themselves, their placement and structure feels very predictable and worn out. All the way through, it felt like I could tell when a hook was coming, what sort of build up these musicians were going to utilise and how each song was going to flow into the next. Very little curveballs were thrown and there was little to no surprise or intrigue underpinning the writing. Overall, I wouldn’t say Nine Shrines have absolutely no promise whatsoever. There are component parts of this record which if worked on and employed within a better context, could dazzle. I would recommend that these guys take a cue from Fever333 or Puppy who incorporate aspects of alt metal in their sound, while maintaining a unique sphere of influence. As far as album no.1 is concerned though, the strong sense of mundanity and typicality leaves a lot to be desired. 4/10